Teaching Phonics in the Classroom with Decoding Drills and Decodable Activities

by Hollie Griffith

on August 17, 2022

Decoding is the process of reading words!

AUTOMATIC WORD RECOGNITION is the ability to recognize a word without having to take the effort to sound it out.

In the world of READING FLUENCY… automatic word recognition in our students is a huge goal! Automatic word recall leads to fluency. Fluency (combined with language understanding and reading strategies) leads to comprehension.

The BIG question… why do we spend so much time on phonics instruction when comprehension is the goal? BECAUSE…. phonics falls under the umbrella of comprehension! YES… our goal is for our students to pick up books and read for enjoyment. Students who understand what they’re reading and can apply reading strategies to interact and dig deeper into the text.  BUT… the truth is… when our students spend all of their effort sounding out a word, their comprehension falls behind.

I have some interesting facts for you! I have no idea how I know this random information… but I know it’s true! You could totally google it to check my info!

  • Language evolved over 100,000 years ago. Speaking is NATURAL! Written text was developed fewer than 5,000 years ago! Reading and writing are NOT natural. Our students need systematic and sequential phonics instruction.
  • According to the National Reading Panel, three things are imperative. 1. Explicit instruction in phonemic awareness 2. Systematic phonics instruction. 3. Methods to improve fluency.
  • It takes an average learner 4 to 14 repetitions to achieve automatic word recognition.
  • It takes a struggling learner 20 or more repetitions to achieve word recognition. Yes… I actually typed that number! 20 or MORE!!! (That little fact came from Orton-Gillingham.)

With that said… we know our students need systematic phonics instruction with MULTIPLE opportunities to practice reading words, nonsense words, sentences, and stories with the new phonics pattern.

In my first grade classroom I use a variety of activities to develop fluency: build the word, map the word, manipulate the word, phonics brochures, word hunts, decodable readers, phonics partner games, phonics fast reads, sight word notebooks…. I could go on and on! If you’re looking for activities to give your students multiple opportunities to practice a new phonics pattern… check out the HG Phonics Club!

Today, I want to share with you how you can use these one sheet decodables!

  • Pinterest

This bundle covers all phonics patterns and each sheet includes:

  • 12 decodable words
  • 8 decodable nonsense words
  • 5 decodable sentences
  • A short story

How can you use these decodable readers in your classroom?

  1. TEACH the pattern! Then, use these sheets in your guided reading groups. Let your students whisper read as you’re listening. If a child is struggling with a word, you help them. Maybe you need to break the word into syllables or pull out your whiteboard and map the word! While you’re helping one child, the rest of your group is whisper reading.
  2. Students can practice reading throughout the week with partners!
  3. After the first day of listening to your students whisper read, pull these sheets back out throughout the week to use as a guided reading warm up. I like to switch between these decodables and phonics fast reads to change things up! As my students are reading to develop fluency, I walk away from the small group table for a few minutes to check on the rest of the class as they’re working on literacy stations.
  4. You could send the decodables home to practice reading to a parent or animal! In all honesty, my students were always SO EXCITED to take these sheets home to read to their parents. Reading something FLUENTLY is VERY EXCITING to a first grader!
  5. You could also use these with parent volunteers!

So… where are these decoding drills?

We’d love to have you in the HG Phonics Club... or you can grab them HERE on TpT! 

OR… try out a few long a drills for FREE HERE! 

Have the best day!!!


Find everything you need to streamline your phonics and fluency instruction.

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